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VOA Online Discussion: A Chat with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Date: 25 February 08
Guests:  The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu
Moderator: Erin Brummett

25 February - SPECIAL EDITION: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Erin Brummett with Most Rev. Desmond Tutu
Erin Brumett with the Most Reverend Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The name Desmond Tutu resonates strongly around the world.  On 25 February 08 at 1500 UTC, T2A met the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus revered as a “moral voice” to end poverty and human rights abuses.

The Nobel Peace Laureate was a key mediator in South Africa’s difficult transition toward democracy. Archbishop Tutu is a founding member and chair of The Elders, a group of prominent international leaders working to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

His policy of forgiveness and reconciliation has become an international example of conflict resolution, and a trusted method of post-conflict reconstruction.

Desmond Tutu Peace Centre Logo

>>> Watch an interview with Archbishop Tutu (7:20) <<<

>>> Watch the video of our Web chat as it happened <<<

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Erin: Welcome to our Special Edition T2A chat with Desmond Tutu, revered as a “moral voice” to end poverty and human rights abuses. The Nobel Peace Laureate was a key mediator in South Africa’s difficult transition toward democracy. Archbishop Tutu is a founding member and chair of The Elders, a group of prominent international leaders working to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. His policy of forgiveness and reconciliation has become an international example of conflict resolution, and a trusted method of post-conflict reconstruction. Your Grace, it is a pleasure to have you join us.


Robert, Singapore (email): Where did you get the courage and strength to garner efforts to end poverty and human rights abuses – from the Bible, the Word of God, your conscience or something else? Are your endeavors focused only on South Africa or on other parts of the world too? 

Father Tutu: Thank you for your question. Fortunately for all of us, none of us is really an individual solitary, we belong in a community the family community, faith community etc. and I have to express my deep gratitude and indebtedness to others who have gone before that are written about in the Bible, who have given examples to us as people of faith.  Fortunately as well, you don't act on your own.  I belong in the faith community of Christians and know I’m supported by prayers and love and caring of so many around the world.   I don't know that I’m brave, but I’ve acted on the basis of what I’ve learned from so many good examples, mentors.  I try to oppose injustice everywhere I encounter it and any and everywhere that maybe I can make a difference.  So you know we are among those criticizing the situation in Zimbabwe, we've been involved in trying to bring relief to Darfur in the Sudan and we have sent a letter to China urging the government to use its leverage to help change the ghastly situation in Darfur.  I’m among those trying to bring about change in Burma, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, so Burma can recover its democratic past.  I’ve been involved as well in trying to bring about peace and alleviation of suffering of the Palestinians, so we do lot.

Imo-Obong, Nigeria (email): Your Grace, we know you are well known globally, but folks like me don't really know much about you except your name and religious position – so please tell us more about yourself.

Father Tutu: Google it! Find out more at  www.elders.org and that will take you to more information about me. Thank you for your interest .

Imo-Obong, Nigeria (email): How confident are you of a resolution in Kenya?

Father Tutu:
I’m thrilled that Kofi Annan, Graca Michel, President Mkapa could spend so much time on this effort...Kofi is very experienced as a former Secretary General of the United Nations and the latest reports are very promising in that they were saying they believe a resolution, an agreement, could come as early as tomorrow/ Tuesday, certainly by mid-week.  And I think that only now just one point of some disagreement, whether the points on which the negotiators have agreed require constitutional backing.  Some say no it could be just an accord between the warring factions.  Others think it is more important to have a constitutionally legal basis for the agreement so people will not easily renege on having entered agreements -- which is quite something when you think that a few days ago people were dying like flies and the violence has virtually disappeared.  So we take off our hats to this negotiating team and those on both sides of this controversy.  So in the end, yes, I’m confident a resolution will be reached.

Michael M: Archbishop, your work and accomplishments are an inspiration to all of us. In today's world all people are connected through tools such as the Internet. No longer are citizens of various countries exposed to only the official voices of their government. The Internet has created a global community to share our experiences and open our minds. From your experience, how can we use the Internet to bridge the conflicts we see every day and achieve more of a common desire to bring about peace and prosperity for all of the earth's children?

Father Tutu:  You have more or less answered your own question in describing the incredible power that is in the hands of so many people.  You remember in 2001 just how so-called ordinary people were connected over their opposition to the invasion of Iraq?  Many people came out in demonstration against the intended invasion and it was largely that people were connected through their chat rooms and through the Internet.   We’ve had another powerful example in what has happened through the Campaign for Making Poverty History.  Again it isn't the high and the mighty, everyone in the world is special.  But those we describe as ordinary are those actually making a lot of a difference and now they are able to communicate.  We speak of web-two as this new phenomenon where previously under web-one people were bombarded with information.   Now there is interaction and communication and it's an extraordinary development.   We're seeing some of this in the U.S. Presidential race where it's again ordinary people pointing out how Obama has been getting so many donations online and when combined, they produce a very significant amount of money.  But apart from money, it is how people are being engaged in wanting to do what they are doing that you are seeing the power of this extraordinary gift that God has given us in the Internet

Erin: Do you truly believe lasting peace can be achieved everywhere in the world?

Father Tutu: I believe that God created us to live together harmoniously and therefore that is a goal which will ultimately will be attainable.  But we will constantly be hitting road bumps as we travel towards this goal.  And I hope that many of us are going to be realizing more and more that we have to see ourselves as members of one family, the human family, which will then influence what we do with our resources.  Everybody admits it's crazy to be spending so much on weapons of destruction, instruments of death in our so-called defense budgets, millions of dollars, when all of us know that a very very small fraction of those budgets would ensure that every single person on earth, every child has clean water to drink, knowing how many diseases are from water borne infection.  We have the capacity to feed all on earth we know it, with so much less money than we spend on bombs and we would not have the billions going to bed at night hungry.  We have the capacity to ensure people have decent health care, we can build virtually every family a decent home, we have the capacity.  We do not have the political will.  But now we are able to see ordinary people can begin to determine what are the agendas of the political leaders, the leaders will listen when the people tell them this is what matters for us.  And so once we can accept this, that we are meant to live harmoniously, we are meant to be family, then peace would be automatic almost.  So there is absolutely no way that we are ever going to win a so called war against terror as long as there are conditions in many parts of the world that drive people to desperation

Erin: As former international leaders and heads of state, The Elders are able to speak more freely – can this freedom lead to unintended consequences?

Father Tutu: I think that the group with whom I’m involved is really earnest in wanting to do what is best for the world.  And since they are no longer looking for kudos, for credit, they will seek to do what is best for the world for our human family.   I am not aware that there might be unintended consequences.  We don't usually rush in where angels fear to tread.  We really take very careful consideration of the facts.   We invite specialists who come along and advise us and suggest various options available to us and so we would -- one has to say we are not infallible and therefore there would be the outside possibility that something goes horribly wrong which was intended for good.  But I’m not myself aware that we would walk into a hornet's nest and not have prepared ourselves for that eventually.

Erin: Do you think South Africa has fulfilled the promise of the end of apartheid?

Father Tutu:  The promise--we have been free only about 14 years - it's a bit of a short time to make an assessment of fulfilling a promise.  When you look at the U.S., you’ve been free since the 1700's and then you see Katrina and ask about fulfilling a promise.  We are on our way there and will have hiccups.  It won't be an easy cakewalk.  It's having to deal with the legacy of injustice and oppression and present day demands and aspirations. You have to juggle so many different objectives and desires.  Sometimes you are disappointed at the choices we are making as we evolve.  But when you take a long view, the incredible thing is to have made the transition from apartheid to freedom with a great deal less violence and bloodshed than most would have expected would be the case.

Erin: That wraps our Special Edition T2A chat with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Our sincere thanks to Your Grace -- and to you for joining us. We hope you can come back this Wednesday, February 27th at 1800 utc for our next Talk To America webchat on voanews.com See you then!


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